|Mohammad Bakri (left)|
27 July '11
This is a long post. But if you get bored, please make sure you read the last few paragraphs where the rest of the story is presented.
The Israeli Supreme Court has dismissed a libel suit against Israeli Arab filmmaker Mohammad Bakri. Here is some background, from a post I wrote in 2009 when the suit was filed:
You may recall that in 2002, after a horrendous wave of bombings and shootings in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands injured, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank to root out the terrorists responsible for it. One of their strongholds was the city of Jenin, in Northern Samaria. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the period of 2001-2002, 57 Israelis were killed and hundreds injured by terrorists based in or directed from Jenin alone. During April 3-11, 2002, IDF soldiers fought a fierce battle in Jenin with members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
After the first day, the fighting moved to the adjacent ‘refugee camp’, which had been heavily fortified and booby-trapped by the Palestinians. Nevertheless, in order to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible, IDF soldiers fought house-to-house instead of employing artillery and air strikes. As a result — as ultimately attested to by the UN — only 52 Palestinians were killed, almost all combatants; but 23 Israeli soldiers were lost, 13 of them in one ambush on April 9.
After the battle, Palestinian spokesmen such as Nabil Sha’ath, Hassan Abdel Rahman, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erakat, claimed that Israel had massacred hundreds of Palestinians, burying them in mass graves or leaving their bodies to decompose under the rubble. But unlike the situation in Gaza, the Palestinians did not control access to the area, and the truth ultimately came out (although, as CAMERA notes in the link above, the fact that they had lied through their teeth didn’t seem to hurt the credibility of the Palestinian spokesmen with the international press).
The anti-Israel media, particularly in the UK, took up the story of the ‘Jenin Massacre’ with glee, embellishing it with ever-more bloody details and accusations of wanton Israeli cruelty. Alleged body counts rose to the thousands. And Mohammad Bakri’s crude propaganda film won a film-festival prize for “Mediterranean Documentary Film-making and Reporting”.
The film consists of after-the-fact interviews with Palestinians who tell ever more horrible stories, and ‘visualizations’ of events such as tanks crushing Palestinians which even Bakri admits didn’t happen:
Bakri spliced together video footage shot during the offensive in which an Israeli tank [armored personnel carrier -- ed.] appears to trample a group of Palestinian prisoners. Bakri said there was no proof that incident ever took place, but that he was trying to demonstrate what an Israeli tank symbolized to Palestinians. — Joshua Mitnick in the NJ Star-Ledger, from Electronic Intifada [my italics]
As I reported once before, my daughter met Bakri in Tel Aviv a few years ago and asked him if he really believed that his film was accurate. He responded that he was an artist and not a historian, and that although perhaps all the details weren’t accurate, the film was a true depiction of what Israel was doing to Palestinians. Bakri’s theory of truth seems a bit different from mine.
The definitive refutation of Bakri’s film is a short article by Dr. David Zangen, who was present during the battle as an IDF doctor, and even treated one of Bakri’s interviewees. It’s called Seven Lies about Jenin. Almost as interesting as his comments about the film is his account of the way the audience at a Jerusalem screening treated him.
The film was originally banned by Israel’s film board, but the ban was overthrown by the Supreme Court. Bakri was then sued for civil libel by five IDF reservists who had taken part in the operation. However, the suit was thrown out because the judge ruled that while the film libeled IDF soldiers as a group, it did not single out these soldiers, so they did not have standing to sue.
Now the soldiers have appealed to the IDF Advocate General, who asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to indict Bakri on criminal charges. Bakri’s response was typical: “This is the difference between me and the military advocate general: He is busy with murdering people and I am busy with art.”
Bakri is wrong. He is as much a soldier in the war against Israel as any Hamas bomber. It is unacceptable that he be allowed to use ‘art’ as a shield and to benefit from Israel’s free society as he does his best to destroy it. He should be indicted and held responsible for his actions.
Mazuz did not indict Bakri, but rather chose to support the appeal to the Supreme Court. Here is a news report from January 5, 2010:
Jenin, Jenin director Muhammad Bakri will not be charged by the state with libel, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz decided on Tuesday. However, Mazuz stressed that he would attend a hearing on an appeal filed to the Supreme Court by representatives of former combat soldiers who took part in the IDF incursion into the Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. The soldiers and families are appealing a ruling by the Petah Tikva District Court in June 2008, which had rejected their civil libel suit against Bakri, whose film accused IDF soldiers of war crimes…
The district court agreed that the film was libelous, but ruled that the individual soldiers could not seek redress for libel committed against “an entire group.”
Now the appeal has been denied on the same grounds:
In dismissing the suit, the judges ruled that even though Bakri’s film was “full of things that are not true” and even though it was hurtful to the feelings of the five soldiers, there was no provision under the law for them to bring a civil claim against Bakri because the film made reference to the IDF’s operations in Jenin as a whole and not to any specific soldier.
Almost certainly this puts a final end to the issue: Bakri, who deliberately made a film full of vicious lies in order to promote the destruction of the state of which he is a citizen and which gives him the opportunity to practice his ‘art’, will suffer no negative consequences for it.
And now, as the great Paul Harvey would have said, for the rest of the story:
Bakri’s latest film was made in 2005, about his difficulties after Jenin, Jenin. On June 18, this film was screened in New York in an event paid for by the New Israel Fund (NIF). You can read the NIF’s fulsome account of it here, including the repetition of some of the lies told by this “esteemed actor and director” (their words).
Let’s see: the NIF supported most of the NGOs that provided material for the Goldstone Report, it supported a coalition of groups that advocate an economic boycott of Israel, and it supports groups who are practicing ‘lawfare’ against Israel, including the arrest of Israelis in Europe for ‘war crimes’ (all of this is documented here).
Now it is paying to provide an audience for an admitted liar and anti-Israel propagandist in the US!
How long will it take for the liberal American Jews who support the NIF — including Rabbi Richard Jacobs, head of the Union for Reform Judaism — to learn whom they are really helping?
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